In choosing her more serious movie projects — not that there’s anything shabby about X-Men! — Halle Berry has a telling weakness for melodramatic Monster’s Ball-sy stories about women whose desperate circumstances and sexual rough edges contradict the refinement of the star’s own beauty. Here’s the latest: Frankie & Alice is a hokey old-school drama of multiple personality disorder based, in the tradition of The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil, on a real case study. Frankie is the presenting patient, a wised-up black stripper on the 1970s L.A. scene whose blackouts and violent personality shifts while bumping and grinding lead her to Dr. Oz (Stellan Skarsgard). He’s a white research psychiatrist, but he can’t be all square because he listens to jazz records and once studied the effects of LSD.
The other two personalities that dwell in Frankie’s body emerge in bursts of ornate acting, matched by the ripe cinematic flourishes thrown in by director Geoffrey Sax (White Noise). Something awful happened to young Frankie back in 1950s Georgia to make her so broken; it’s just a matter of time, flashbacks, many costume and accent changes, some more jazz, and a triggering tune on the radio before the truth can set Frankie, and the audience, free. C+